The European Commission has launched the second stage of infringement proceedings against Austria, Belgium, Greece, Italy and Portugal over their apparent failure to implement the 1999 Directive setting out the minimum standards for the protection of laying hens (1999/74/EC). All member states were obliged to implement the Directive in national law by 1 January 2002 and notify the Commission of the measures taken. The sending of a so-called 'reasoned opinion' to the five countries concerned is the second step in the infringement process. The member states now have two months to comply with the 'reasoned opinion', or the Commission may decide to take them to the European Court of Justice.